In a recent interview, Stephen Colbert had this to say:
“I believe that people, more often than not, act with the best possible intentions.”
In the current American upheaval and angst present under the flag of politics, it can be disheartening to see all of the potshots flying out, smacking not only into the candidates, but to the followers of those candidates. Anonymous critics, drawing into open question the intelligence of others, intellect and personality and experience unknown.
The thing that strikes me is that none of it is real. Not of it has substance. It’s ashy and dusty noise, cacophony and scratching blackboards, without heft, without significance without meaning and without value. Chickens, squawking uselessly at each other, pecking the air and shedding feathers of dearly held dogma and baseless opinion.
Yet, in the midst of all of this caterwauling there’s a core of music, a steady thrum of insistent music, composed of questions more than of answers. Voices of honest childlike curiosity. You can spot these jewels of oasis easily: they want to know. They challenge the noise often; and when they do, the noise tends to die down.
“Why do you think that Presidential candidate is a liar? Why do you think he intends nothing but evil for the country?”
At the end of the day, any logical answers fall short. The only conclusion anyone can come to is “well I suppose he means well.”
And that’s when the other shoe drops.
A chorus of “buts…” doesn’t negate from that foundational finding. “Yes, but if he’s voted in, he’ll…” “Yes but he’s rich and….” “Yes but he’s not realistic and so…..”
Whatever the argument from there, the foundation remains. “He means well.”
And by extension, so do his followers.
All of a sudden, it’s not nearly as simple as we originally thought. The black and white isn’t quite as black or as white as we thought. Motivation means so much, yet it seems to be the first thing we often judge – often wrongly – and dismiss.
I suppose over the years, I’ve had to learn that opinions and motivations are more complex than I originally thought. Now, I feel like I’m at the same point as Colbert.
“Oh you’re pretty good then” they’ll say. “You don’t like to judge.”
I say “not at all. Of course I judge. All the time.”
They say “yeah, but…what you just said???”
And I’ll say “but I find my need for answers kinds of outweighs my impulse to judge. I need to know. It’s a selfish thing.”
I’ll add: “I’m really worried I’ll miss something important. It’s why there’s such a need to ask questions. My assumptions have proven wrong one too many times.”
That guy over there – the one who’s frowning at the unassuming family in the row in front of him. You can read his body language. It’s like he hates them. And they’re just sitting there quietly, occasionally whispering with each other.
I want to know what’s going on. I want to know what motivates him. What’s his story? What’s his history?
I see where he is now, but that’s not enough. How did he get there?
Why is that woman smiling? I mean, I’m glad she is – that grin is infectious. What’s the root of it?
There’s a need for clarity. In the accumulation of clear thinking, there is a kind of shared harmony that is almost musical. There is freedom too – to experiment, to listen, to smile and to understand what fellowship is about.
If ever you’re interested in a musical representation of all of this, check out any of the multitude of Bobby McFerrin videos on YouTube. This one in particular caught my imagination: it’s an hour – a full hour! – of improvised music. Unlike other musicians, Bobby’s instrument is his voice. And he uses it to abandon. He’s like a kid with his voice – going up and down the register, adding beats and breaths and clicks. After the first seven minutes of solo, he begins to improvise with others: singers, musicians, even the audience.
There’s a joy inherent in the whole thing, and you get the sense that there really is no limit. The man’s spirit has been captured in his music, and I am in awe.
Check it out when you have a while. it’s the equivalent of a musical meditation. The ironic thing: he once considered becoming a monk because he values the quiet. I don’t think that’s changed: I think the man is all about pure notes.
It certainly is a major shift away from the bragging vehemence of emphatic oppositional political noise isn’t it?
I think the human spirit is kind of beautiful like that.